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Toddcast - Season 4, Episode 2 


“Meet Gayla Tibbits” 

This episode of Toddcast is sponsored by our patrons Steph and Aaron Percival. 

Thank you. I appreciate it. 

Hello and welcome, everyone! I'm Todd Lyons, and this is Toddcast, Season 4, 
Episode 2: a show for, and about, public servants. 

Stop for a moment. Think about where you are in your life. What do you feel? 

Many things concurrently? One penetrating sensation looming over everything 
else? What's the first word that describes your state of being at this moment? 

Is it a sense of purpose? Of certainty? Aimlessness? Satisfaction? 

Disillusionment? Surprise? Relief? Regret? Connection? Isolation? 

Never before has it been easier to know ourselves, using everything from self-help 
materials to professional therapy to DNA tests by mail. 

And never before has it been easier to know what the people in our lives are up to, 
and meet new people we would never have encountered otherwise. People who 
we may call friends for years to come, while never existing on the same continent 
together. 

In the 80s and 90s we had modems to dial-up computer bulletin board systems, 
which were supplanted by broadband connections to virtual worlds, and then the 
social media platforms that conquered nearly everyone on mobile devices in the 
palms of our hands. 

And where has it led? Like everything, along pathways both good and bad. 
Marriages between people who would never have plucked up the courage to even 
talk in real life. And bullying that extends beyond middle school and into middle 
age. 

Never before has it been easier remain connected to anyone, anywhere, and yet, 
never before have so many people felt so completely alone. Insignificant. Inferior. 
Irrelevant. Invisible. 

Antithetical to what was intended... what we hoped would come from all this 
technology. 


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What is it about interacting through electronic means that feels so empty? What is it that 
brings out the worst in people, even good people? 

Bullies, have always and will always, remain cowards, preying only on those who are 
too weak to retaliate and only in circumstances where they are unlikely to be caught and 
consequenced. 

But what of the rest of us? Maybe we're all still trapped in middle school. Social media is 
the yearbook where you don't have to join the committee to ensure that your photo gets 
published. Just book 30 minutes every other day to do take after take to capture the 
perfect picture of the thing you bought or the thing you made or the place you visited 
where the composition is perfect and the angle catches your good side and your hair 
looks just right and the smile on your face is so convincing it looks like you really meant 
it, as much as you might have meant it when you took the first attempt at the picture. 

And then... sitting anxiously and waiting and hoping for likes or shares or comments, 
and when they don't come, or don't come fast enough, or come in enough quantity to 
satiate what sometimes seems like a bottomless pit of need and insecurity, we torture 
ourselves wondering why. Why aren't you paying attention to me? Aren't I good 
enough? Is there something wrong with me? 

When we're a world of lonely people crying out for attention, who has the attention to 
hear another's cry of need? 

It can all stop, now. The creation and consumption of the impossible fantasy. Selected, 
edited, curated surreality. 

Step away from the computer. Put the mobile notifications on mute, Budget time in your 
schedule to read and respond to things that might matter. But for now, cultivate 
something real. Phone someone. Make plans for a face to face encounter. Buy a stack 
of postcards and a page of stamps, scribble a personal message to the people that 
matter to you, remind them why they matter, and send them something they'll love to 
read. No one wants more email, but people appreciate an envelope in their hand that 
isn't an invoice. 

Be grateful. Gratitude is healing. So count your blessings. Making an inventory of 
everything you're thankful for in life is sobering. 

Happiness doesn't come from an app or a website. Happiness comes from within. 
Happiness is something you make yourself. The recipe for happiness comes from 
knowing and loving yourself. 

Take time to be with the people you love and do things that fulfill you as a person. 
Cuddle with someone or something you love. A spouse, a pet, a blanket and a book 


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with a cup of tea. 

Go to sleep early. Sleep in complete darkness and silence. Charge your device in a 
different room from the one you sleep in. 

Stop looking for validation in others. Stop competing with others and start competing 
with yourself. Take ownership of your happiness and strive only to be the best version 
of yourself. Eventually, you will be a better person than you were a month ago, a year 
ago, ten years ago. 

Don't be afraid to be happy. Understand that happiness is the culmination of an 
introspective journey. It means different things to different people and only you can 
decide what it would take for YOU to truly be happy... content, secure, resilient. Better 
prepared for all the unexpected turns in your life ahead. 

On this episode, I'd like to you meet Gayla Tibbits. 


GAYLA: So! 

TODD: So, why don't we start by just having you introduce yourself? 

GAYLA: My name is Gayla Tibbits. I work for Public Services and 
Procurement Canada with the shared HR group and I also volunteer as the 
National Chair for the Aboriginal Peoples Network for our department. 

TODD: And you have an interesting story that I've heard bits and pieces of, 
including at that blanket ceremony that we were both in attendance at 
recently. Tell me—tell me the story of your early life. 

GAYLA: My early life. Okay. Well, I was adopted—I mean, and that's part of 
the story that we’ll be talking about today—but I was adopted from 
Yellowknife when I was a little baby. My Mom and Dad were living in Inuvik at 
the time and I was born in Yellowknife. My Dad was in the Navy. He did 31 
years in the Navy so I've been all over our beautiful country and even outside 
of it, and back in, and we settled here in Ottawa in '93 and I’ve been here 
ever since. 

TODD: Okay. You had a good experience with your adoptive family? 

GAYLA: Absolutely! I have the best parents in the world! [laughs] 

TODD: But you never were really curious to know about, you know, where 


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you came from. You were proud of who you were but as far as actually 
knowing your real birth family that's not something that was a yearning that 
you had. 

GAYLA: No, it wasn’t on my radar at all. I felt that I had everything I needed 
from my parents, you know, and I I felt I didn't have that missing piece of my 
heart, you know, that I needed that connection with my birth family or mother 
or what-have-you. I mean, a lot of adoptees spend a lot of their lives 
searching for their original family, whereas I felt that my life is as full as I 
expected or wanted it to be and didn't want to fill it with any more, I guess, 
projects that may take a very, very long time. I just wanted to kind of focus on 
me and and bettering myself as as a woman. 

TODD: I can understand that. My own mother was adopted and she went 
looking and wasn't really wanted when she came to the end of that journey. 
But you, without actually intending to go on another journey, you did end up 
going somewhere, so tell us about that. 

GAYLA: I guess I can start off by saying that although I didn't find that there 
was a missing piece in my heart to locate my original birth family, I was very 
interested in in my culture as a First Nations woman. My parents always told 
me that I was First Nations and I really wanted to learn more about that 
especially after I was 23 years old, in college, obtaining my social work 
diploma. And I was in one of my classes and it was “Caring for the Elderly” 
and the teacher or the professor in that class told us her personal story as a 
house mother in a residential school in Labrador. It was very touching and 
very moving and it really brought that need for me to learn about my culture 
even stronger. So, I started volunteering for local organizations. I did my 
co-op with the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. I started getting involved 
with the local elders and just really, like, encompassing that culture into my 
life. And when I entered the public service, I started volunteering for these 
employment equity networks and during this particular time was working with 
Statistics Canada. So, they did call out for a rep to go to the National Council 
of Aboriginal Federal Employees tri-annual general meeting in Edmonton and 
I applied for it and I won, so I got to represent our department at the meeting. 
And I called one of my regional guys that is in Alberta. I met him when he 
was in he was here on business. I said, “I'm coming to Alberta. Can you 
come and meet me there, like, I really miss you and I want to see you.” So he 
came down and he joined the general meeting as well and he knows people 
from all over the country—I mean, First Nations people from coast to coast to 
coast. He's just this wonderful man that just has a plethora of a network of 
people that I don't even know how he even got to where he is today. I call 
him Uncle Jerry now, by the way. So, he introduced me to a couple of ladies 


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who actually were from my community—from my reserve—and he told them, 
“Here’s a young girl—a lost soul—from your community. She was adopted 
when she was a baby” and “oh my goodness” these ladies were so nice “oh 
my goodness, I’m so happy to meet you". So we connected right away. We 
became instant friends and we decided, you know, we signed up for all the 
same breakout sessions during the conference and I'm sitting around the 
conference table right before one of the breakout sessions started and we 
were just chit-chatting. I don't know how this happened, I don't know why it 
happened, but this lady looks across the table at me and she stops me. I 
don't know if I made a gesture or I said something a certain way or I made a 
look or something. She just stops me mid-sentence and she says, “I know 
who your mom is.” 

TODD: How did that feel? 

GAYLA: I don't even know how to explain it, to be honest. If it was like, 
“Mom? You don't actually know my Mom” [laughs] “but I know what you're 
talking about. Are you serious?” That’s pretty much... 

TODD: Yeah. It seems very surreal. 

GAYLA: For real, [laughs] Seriously. So I just kind of looked at her and I said, 
“What do you mean you know who my mom is?” and she goes, “I can't 
believe I didn't notice it before and I don't know if Mary Ann gave up a baby 
when she was young but I'm going home to find out.” And I was like, “Okay, 
but how do you know? What do you mean?” She says, “You look exactly like 
Mary Ann did when she was your age.” 

TODD: Wow. That’s amazing. 

GAYLA: I went, “Really? Are you serious?” and she said, “I'm serious. Give 
me your contact information.” So she made me right then and there write 
down all my contact information and then we went about our day and we 
went to the rest of the conference and we had a really good time and we 
didn't really talk about it the rest of the time. And I came home. I did my 
debrief and actually I won a competition for my indeterminate status but it 
was with a different apartment. So, I gave my 2 week notice. Two weeks 
went by. I was packing my office. It was 2:30 in the afternoon; I finish my day 
at 3:00. It’s 2:30, I'm almost done packing, I’m just getting ready to walk out 
the door and my phone rings. I pick up that phone and it's her—the lady from 
the conference. Her name is Karen and she says, “Mary Ann’s your mom.” 
And I went, “How do you know that?” She said, “Well, I talked to her. She 
said she gave up a baby and you know it sounds like a very similar story that 


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you told me. And, you know, your auntie is waiting for you to call her.” Wow! 
What a way to finish my career at StatsCan. 

TODD: I can’t imagine. 

GAYLA: [laughs] Yeah, I mean, I'm an outgoing person [of] so course I was 
nervous but when you think about somebody who’s been waiting for that 
moment my whole life at least cuz I was 26. So you think about their side of 
the story, that they've been waiting that long to connect with me. I couldn't let 
them down. 

TODD:No. 

GAYLA: I mean, I could have but it's not part of my personality, [laughs] 

TODD: Curiosity would have just gotten the best of me. I'm not an 
extroverted person but I could not have just allowed that thread just to be left 
alone. So what did you do? 

GAYLA: I probably would have regretted it for a very long time. I called her. 
“Hi! I’m Gayla.” “I’m Francis. I’m your auntie.” “How do you know that?” She 
says, “Well, when’s your birthday?” So I gave her my birthday and she says, 
“Oh, for sure, for sure you’re ours. I know it.” And I said, “Okay, well...” I went 
into further detail, you know, there were a few things that I knew. Obviously I 
know my birthday, I know how old I was, I know that I didn't spend any time 
with my birth mother when I was born, and I knew that she named me 
Angela. So I was asking her, like the specific question is really, “Do you know 
what Mary Ann named her baby?” and she couldn't answer me any of these 
questions so I was skeptical. And she says, “You know what? Just call my 
sister. She's been waiting a long time to hear your voice.” And I went, 
[whispering to herself: “Okay, it’s a little bit too much for me”] “I'm still at 
work.” So anyways, I just jumped in, you know, just like I do for everything 
else: feet first, close your eyes, and hope it's not cold. So anyways, I gave 
her a call and she was, you know, anxiously waiting. She picked up before 
the first ring was even done and she says “Hi” and she was very shy. And I 
said “Hi” and there was a little bit of silence there cuz I'm sure she didn't 
know what to say or anything so it was me who you kind of initiated the 
conversation. I just said, “So, I heard you gave a baby up for adoption quite a 
while ago” and she says, “I did” and I go, “Okay. Well apparently I could be 
that person” and she said, “I know, I know” and I went, “Okay, so what was 
your child's birthday?” and she says, “I can't remember whether it was the 
28th or 29th of January” and I said, “Well, I was born on the 29th of January” 
and she said, “Wow.” That's what I think she said. Something like that. It was 


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either silence or just a one word response. And I went, “Did you name your 
baby?” And she said yes. And I said, “What did you name your baby?” and 
she says, “I named her after my grandmother. Her name was Angela.” 

TODD: Was that enough? Did that convince you there? 

GAYLA: Yeah. Really it did. 

TODD: So where do you go from there? 

GAYLA: I had no idea. At the time I had no—it was just too much hitting me 
at the same time and I just kinda broke down in tears and, you know, my 
colleagues around me were all gathering around me thinking that I had just 
gotten really bad news or, you know, cuz I was beside myself with emotion. 
So I just told her, I said, “Listen, Mary Ann.” I said, “I realize that you must be 
going through something... similar to what I'm feeling right now but I'm still at 
work and I'm going to have to call you later cuz I can't deal with this right here 
in this moment.” And I said, “I'm going to call you when I get home.” So I did. 

I got off the phone with her and talked to my colleagues and obviously they 
were blown away like, if that just happened to you, and I said my goodbyes 
cuz it was my last day there. So, you know, then I went home and I gave her 
a call and we chit chatted for a couple of hours and you know, I know it was 
very easy. Once I was in my own home environment and little bit more 
relaxed and had some time to let that information sink into my body, it was 
kind of easier just to kind of chit chat. You know, and in that moment when 
you're doing it by phone you don't really... it’s not as personal as it would 
have been in person but... it was a tough day, I would say. 

TODD: That’s got to be an understatement. That’s transformational. Your 
whole universe has just expanded in one day. 

GAYLA: Yeah and you never know what to expect. You don’t know. Is this 
going to be a good addition to my life or a really, really crazy addition / bad 
decision. So, all of those things roll through your mind. I mean, you can 
imagine things that any regular family go through has its ups and its downs. 
Imagine this whole new world opening up to you that you never anticipated 
ever having in your life. So, it was a tough day for sure. So, yeah, I guess 
after that, before I knew it they were on a plane to Ottawa! [laughs] 

TODD: So here we go. 

GAYLA: Roll with the punches, Gayla! That was crazy. They just called me 
up. “We’re coming to Ottawa.” And you know, I was kind of mean. I was, like, 


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“Well, you’re going to have to stay in a hotel because I don’t know you.” 
[laughs] 

TODD: Okay! Because even though you believed it, there’s still this sort of 
nagging doubt. Is this going to be a good addition or not? 

GAYLA: This is it, right? 

TODD: It’s sensible. 

GAYLA: I’m a mother and I have a family to protect, too. Their interests are 
obviously my priority. So this was something I had to do on my own before I 
could bring it into my family unit. So... 

TODD: Certainly. So, they come. They arrived at the airport. 

GAYLA: At the airport. Oh my goodness. I was a basket case and I didn't let 
anyone come with me because I didn't want anyone to be a part of that. I 
want to do it all by my big girl self. I had anxiety, fear. Even those kind of little 
girl feelings like, are they going to like me when they meet me? Are they 
going to accept me for who I am? Are they going to accept my family, my 
Mom and my Dad especially? I was little bit scared of all of that kind of stuff, 
but the moment she's at... you know at the airport at the escalator where 
you're picking people up, right? 

TODD: I’ve been there. 

GAYLA: So, I was even thinking to myself: how am I even going to know who 
this person is? I’ve never met them before. 

TODD: You didn’t bring a sign? 

GAYLA: You know, like, “Hi!” No, I didn’t. But she’s standing at the top of the 
escalator and she sees me, and all shes does is start crying. But I’m looking 
up at her and for the very first time in my life, I'm looking at somebody who 
looks like me. Or, who I look like, I guess you should say. It was like looking 
in a mirror 50 years down the road or 40 years down the road, how much 
older she is than me. I couldn't believe it. And then she's crying and then as 
soon as she got to the bottom of the escalator she dropped her bags, 
grabbed me, and held me, like, for dear life. Like she would never let me go. 

TODD: How did you feel in that moment? 


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GAYLA: Numb. I didn’t feel much... in that moment. It was later through 
conversations and getting to know each other, where reality kind of set in, it 
was like, “Okay, this is really happening.” This is... through that whole... 
starting from the phone conversation to the escalator it was kind of... it was 
like a dream happening. It wasn’t really happening, but it is happening. But 
then afterwards we had a good time. We had a good visit. They only stayed 
in the hotel one night, [laughs] 

TODD: So they passed the test. That’s good. 

GAYLA: And, you know, I showed them around town and the things I do and 
where I work and where I grew up. I mean, locally here. I mean, I've been all 
over the country but back home, just outside of Ottawa, the high school I 
went to. I brought them, like, on a big circle road trip type thing to show them 
who I am and where I'm from. And I asked her the hard questions, too. So, I 
know why she gave me up. I understand where she's coming from. Things 
were different back then than what they are today, at least for women, 
especially First Nations women. She’s lived a hard life, so she made the 
decisions that she needed to make to protect me and I'm proud of her for 
that. The hardest part of it is she has a love for me as a mother, and I can 
understand where she's coming from. I've carried my babies and even if I 
know that if something were to happen that I couldn't take care of them or be 
with them or had to give them away, that I still would carry that love for the 
rest of my life. So I understand where that love is coming from, but it's a love 
that I can't return... as a daughter, because I have a Mom. I had a Mom. But I 
have a Mom. No one can take her name... or her place. 

TODD: So, your birth mom, what does she add to your life? What part of your 
life can she be a part of? 

GAYLA: We can be friends. We can have a relationship. I'm not denying her 
that. I just told her, “I will never call you Mom” and she said, “In time you will, 
my child” and I said, “I'm sorry Mary Ann. I can’t.” And it hurts me that I can’t 
give that to her, but... 

TODD: But it's honest. 

GAYLA: Yeah. It’s just not part... I love my Mom too much. 

TODD: Yeah. And to promise her more than you can really, truly feel wouldn't 
be right for her, as much as she might want it. 


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GAYLA: No. Welcome to my life, [laughs] 

TODD: Thank you for sharing your story with me. 
GAYLA: You’re welcome. 


You've been listening to Toddcast, Season 4, Episode 2. 

All opinions expressed on Toddcast are strictly those of the individual and are not 
necessarily those of their employer. 

Special thanks our patrons: Steph and Aaron Percival, Steve Buell, Darlene 
Mulcahey, Abe Greenspoon, Terry Kelly, Yvette Fung, Elizabeth Ellis, Tanya 
Garcia, John Price, Taran Wasson, Greg White, Joy Moskovic, Jackie Tweedie, 
M.F. Burford, Barbara Dundas, Daphne Guerrero, Jennifer Harju, Sarine 
Makdessian, Tariq Piracha, and George Wenzel. 

And also to listeners: Jeremy Ames, Amanda Bernard, Christian Bertelsen, Allison 
De Toni, Adam Fritz, Derek Jackson, Anthony Jaz, Sharon Pinney, Laura Storie, 
and Mark Templin. 

However you found us, please help us bring meaningful content to the public 
service. Become a subscriber, share the episodes, rate our content, and write, and 
let us know what's on your mind. You can reach me at todd@toddlyons.ca, or, 
start a conversation GCconnex, or with fellow listeners worldwide on GCcollab dot 
ca. 

Toddcast is planned, written, and technically produced using free and open source 
software: Kanboard, DokuWiki, and Audacity all running on Linux Mint. Software 
that is free as in cost, but more importantly, free as in freedom. 

This episode's theme music was “I Am A Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor” by 
Chris Zabriskie and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license. 

Toddcast content is free to use and share under the Creative Commons Attribution 
Share-Alike license because, like open source, open content and open licensing 
makes the world a better place. 

I'm Todd Lyons. I'll see you online. 


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